In 1612, William Shakespeare gave evidence in a court case at Westminster; it is the only occasion on which his actual spoken words were recorded. The case seems routine---a dispute over an unpaid marriage dowry---but it opens an unexpected window into the dramatist’s famously obscure life. Using the court testimony as a springboard, acclaimed nonfiction writer Charles Nicholl examines this fascinating period in Shakespeare’s life. With evidence from a wide variety of sources, Nicholl creates a compelling, detailed account of the circumstances in which Shakespeare lived and worked during the time in which he wrote such plays as Othello, Measure for Measure, and King Lear. The case also throws new light on the puzzling story of Shakespeare’s collaboration with the hack author and violent brothel owner George Wilkins.